Sometimes we come to points in our lives where we seriously question the sovereignty and wisdom of God. While I know this is ill-mannered and audacious, I still do it.
I had one such moment 25 years ago when I found out that I was pregnant with our fifth child. Did God not know that I was seriously under qualified to raise 5 children? Did he not know that we were struggling with other things in our lives that made the idea of another child impossible? Did God not realize that I had two friends begging Him for children and they were being ignored, while my womb was like that of a teenager who merely had to stand downwind from a teenage boy to get pregnant? There I was, fertility personified, and to use Biblical language poised to become heavy with child.
We were living in Cairo and had just moved from one part of the city to another 1/2 hour away. The day I went to the doctor, we were expecting a group of 20 students to arrive from the United States for a study abroad program that my husband directed. It was a chaotic time and there was little chance to be alone and process the pregnancy, never mind the bigger issue of the sovereignty of God. I hid my growing stomach under Bill Cosby sweaters, all the rage at the time, and managed to go four months before having to let people around me know. At that point I was slowly becoming used to the idea and so could come up with clever quips to snap back at the insensitive words of not so well-meaning friends and acquaintances.
The reality was that my other four children were over the moon. They couldn’t have been happier and wise friends of mine reminded me that I would far rather have 5 children than just one or two, but I thought I had told God that four was perfect.
I gave birth two weeks ahead of schedule in a hospital on the banks of the Nile River to Jonathan Brown Gardner. The moment I looked at him my questions to God dissolved in his soft baby skin. He was perfect in every way. Never had I been more aware of the glory and wonder of 10 fingers and 10 toes, a suck reflex, and eyes with perfect vision that slowly took in the world around them after first fixating on the face of a mother, and that mother was me.
At 22 inches long and 6 lbs 12 ounces, he was put into my arms and in an instant I was overwhelmed with love for this child and the wisdom of God. I knew a love for this child that was infinitely bigger and stronger than my circumstances – he was perfect.
Today that baby turns 25. He is a wise 25-year old with an old soul. Fluent in Greek, he is getting his masters degree at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece.
I am just one of a number of women who through the years has had babies and pregnancy give them life lessons on the sovereignty and deep love of God. I join the ranks of Sarah, wife of Abraham who had the opposite problem and tried to take things into her own hands; Hannah, who begged for a child with agony too deep for words; Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah who in her old age conceived, much to the surprise and gossip of those around her. And Mary, the blessed Theotokos, who said the words “How can this be?” to an angel who told her she would have a child, only to come to know her beloved son as the author of salvation.
As the months go by what confuses and confounds ultimately allows us to bear witness to God’s sovereignty in the form of a baby. Happy Birthday to Jonathan Brown Gardner. You are an extraordinary gift from God and I can’t imagine life in our family without you!
12 thoughts on “Babies and the Sovereignty of God”
I popped over to let you know I finished reading “Between Worlds” – in the car today on an 800+ mile trip. I read a few of the essays out loud to my hubby while stuck in traffic due to an accident. The one about being capable of complexity? I laughed out loud – it might be my favorite! :-) My just turned 14 year old TCK daughter has asked if she can read it now, as well.
So, I popped over to tell you that and then stumbled on this post – not exactly sure how.I remember when we discovered #4 was on the way – and I was so unhappy. We thought 3 was the perfect number’and we were already enrolled in French language study – how could I do that with 4, 4 and under? I miscarried on Valentine’s Day and my heart broke. Without walking through that loss, however, we wouldn’t have our sweet Quebecoise (same one who wants to read “Between Worlds”). I’m a slow learner – or maybe a resistant learner, though. Finding out I was expecting both #5 and #6 had me questioning – not so much God’s sovereignty (i.e. He clearly held more sway than I did when it came to making babies and the timing of said babies), but His wisdom… Oh, the tears, the overwhelmed panic, the desperation that drove me to God like nothing else ever has…
Finally, I realized that His timing, His wisdom, His plan for my story – well, they wouldn’t be His if they matched up with mine… and He’s such a better writer than I am, any ways.
Thanks for your stories… your words… and wishing you a Happy New Year!
Love this! I got pregnant with my second way too soon after my first. According me, at least, at the time. But he is so awesome, and if I hadn’t gotten pregnant THAT month, he wouldn’t be THIS child. Pretty wild if you think about it. :)
I love that you found this post Elizabeth! Thanks for making me smile and yes – it is WILD, beyond WILD that these kids are who they are because of a particular egg and sperm in time….wow. That’ll shut me up for awhile.
Love this post and the title, Marilyn. Thanks for sharing with such candor and grace.
Oh Marilyn this was wonderful! I found myself pregnant with our third “unwanted” child right when my ex-husband was falling in love with someone else! I didn’t know about her but knew things were going terribly wrong for us. So the answer we thought would be an abortion…….”we can’t have another baby” and on and on we rationalized. Thankfully I cancelled the appointment, five days before! Twenty days later he moved out. Two months later I found out about them. At that time I had a 4 mo old and a 5 year old. I felt like Hagar….pregnant and alone in the desert. But God gave me strength and what a blessing it was to have David. His precious little life grew in me, while my marriage died. Twenty four years later and I can’t imagine my life without him.
Patti – If I didn’t love you before, I certainly would now! This story is so moving. I am so grateful to you for telling it and for your honesty. No wonder you are such an amazing foster mom. Thanks for making my day!
In the complexities of life we are, as C.S. Lewis (I think) said, “surprised by JOY.”
So well quoted! Thanks Bettie.